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Fair Trials highlights the abuse of cross-border policing measures in the name of ‘counter terrorism’

admin - September 21, 2018 - INTERPOL, counter-terrorism

Fair Trials held a side-event at the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting on the abuse of cross-border cooperation mechanisms in the name of counter terrorism. The side event was held in conjunction with the Civic Solidarity Platform’s Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, Anti-Extremism and Human Rights, which Fair Trials coordinates the Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis.  

The event launched a consultation paper on Human Rights, Cross Border Criminal justice and Security written by Working Group Members. The paper outlines how the growth of cross-border cooperation mechanisms has led to an increase in in the transfer of people, policies and data across borders in the context of combatting counter terrorism and anti-extremism. Whilst terrorism and extremism clearly pose a serious threat that states have to address, the paper details how cooperation mechanisms designed to combat the threat of terrorism are being abused to target political opponents, ethnic minorities and free speech, all in the name of fighting terrorism.

The event featured contributions from Working Group Members Maria Kravchenko from the SOVA Center and Izabela Kisic from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. Maria Kravchenko highlighted how anti-extremism legislation that was passed in Russia has been ‘borrowed’ and adopted in various different forms in states across Central Asia. The dangerously broad definition of extremism in these laws has meant that minority religious groups have been criminalised as ‘extremist’, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims. Izabela Kisic highlighted how legislation in Serbia relating to Foreign Terrorist Fighters was applied discriminatorily, depending on which battlefield fighters were returning from.

The event also featured Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the Islamic Revival Party (IRPT) of Tajikistan, who spoke about his experience of being subject to an abusive INTERPOL Red Notice. Kabiri spoke about how difficult it is for dissidents to know whether or not it is safe to travel, and how opaque the process can be for finding out whether or not someone is subject to a Red Notice and how to get a Red Notice deleted. He thanked Fair Trials for their help in getting his Red Notice deleted, but he warned that many others subject to abusive Red Notices are not so lucky. As leader of the IRPT, Kabiri noted that he benefitted from widespread international support in challenging his Red Notice, whereas for many other asylum seekers, activists and political dissidents, the reality of being subject to a Red Notice is spending years facing prison and fighting extradition.    

Fair Trials Senior Policy Adviser, Bruno Min, rounded off the event by emphasising the importance of human rights to security cooperation. He highlighted that whilst the majority of INTERPOL Red Notices may be legitimate, people who are subject to abusive notices should not just be seen as ‘collateral damage’. The abuse of cross-border mechanisms undermines the efficacy and legitimacy of these mechanisms, and human rights should never be seen as a ‘necessary sacrifice’ to combatting terrorism.

The event also previewed Fair Trials new report ‘Dismantling the tools of oppression: Ending the misuse of INTERPOL’. The report will explore the successes and failures of the reforms INTERPOL has enacted in recent years to try and combat the abuse of its systems.

The report will be officially launched in the coming weeks, so watch this space!


The Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, Anti-Extremism and Human Rights is jointly coordinated by Fair Trials and the Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis. Other members of the Working Group include: Albanian Helsinki Committee, ARTICLE 19, DRA, Human Rights First, Netherlands Helsinki Committee, and Serbian Helsinki Committee. The Working Group is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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